In last week’s “Minuteman High School's Unbalanced Enrollment Costs”,
Letter to the Editor, it was proven that Minuteman’s underfunded nonmember tuition student enrollment creates an operating revenue shortfall totaling millions of dollars annually and anticipated millions more in increased capital cost both subsidized by member towns.
Minuteman uses the same budgetary approach to determine annual assessments that our town uses to reconcile the budget. Anticipated State aid, personal property tax payments and other revenue sources are subtracted from expenditures with the balance paid through property taxes and emergency funds. In the case of Minuteman, there are significant and serious differences that result in unjustified operating budget increases and related over assessments.
While Proposition 2 ½ restricts Sudbury tax increases, Minuteman approves its own 5% budgets increases under the guise of providing level services. Doing so is both misleading and untrue. Over the past 5 years, member town student enrollment has remained essentially flat and teacher staffing has decreased. This is while Administration costs increase 53% (or $630,000 in staffing growth and raises), and nonmember tuition student enrollments from cities including Boston and Watertown that have spiked upward 44%. This is while the school has an identified $9,000 annual revenue loss for each and every tuition student.
Minuteman also understates budgetary revenue sources. When this occurs in our towns, the understated state aid and personal property taxes actually collected flow into rainy day or Emergency & Deficiency (E&D) funds to be used the next year to reduce property taxes. Minuteman’s understated revenue and misstated assessment line items total $2 million in over assessments that is immediately spent to expand Administration staffing and salaries with the lion’s share used to subsidize educational services for underfunded tuition students. Any later Minuteman surplus funds are blocked from increasing the E&D by hundreds of thousands of dollars in unreconciled deficit spending.
This all takes place while Minuteman assessments increase and there exists underutilized tuition revenues in off-budget revolving accounts that are increasing every year rather than being transferred to budgeted general funds to be used to reduce assessments. These hoarded funds are never disclosed and kept off-budget during the budget process.
The school committee has allowed the administration to over assess and misstate member town budget assessments for the last 7 years while ignoring and marginalizing auditor and other warning year after year in the blind pursuit of unjustified and unwarranted budget increases in order to subsidize a large tuition enrollment. The inflated enrollment is used to justify building the largest school possible regardless of costs to member town to benefit a privileged few.
“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don't ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”
David Manjarrez, 47 Firecut Lane, appointed to the Minuteman school committee in April 2008